Feb. 12, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (2-2, 0-0) will return to action after a 12-day layoff by playing host to a pair of BIG EAST Conference foes this weekend in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish will face Virginia Tech (9-0, 2-0) on Friday at 4 p.m. (EST) and Boston College (3-0, 1-0) at 10 a.m. (EST) on Sunday. Notre Dame holds a combined 10-0 all-time mark against the teams, including a regular-season victory over the Hokies last year and a defeat of the Eagles in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals.
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: The Irish dropped a pair of matches to top-20 teams the last time they were in action. On Jan. 30, Notre Dame traveled to #16 Northwestern, but was defeated 7-0. The Wildcats swept the doubles matches to take the initial point of the match for the first time against a Jay Louderback-coached Notre Dame squad. Northwestern then proceeded to win each of the six singles matches in straight sets to complete their first shutout against the Irish since 1981. Two days later, Notre Dame nearly pulled off an upset of No. 5 North Carolina before falling 5-2. The Irish took the doubles point with wins at Nos. 1 and 3. Senior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) and freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) rallied for an 8-6 win at No. 1 over the 19th-ranked team in the nation to clinch the point. In singles, the Tar Heels delivered straight-set victories at Nos. 1-4 to clinch the victory. Sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) was the lone winner for the Irish in singles, defeating Lee Bairos at No. 5. Freshman Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.) won the first set at No. 6, but then fell in three sets.
IRISH vs. HOKIES: Virginia Tech is off to a hot start this season, having won each of its first nine matches, all at home, heading into the weekend. The Hokies entered the national rankings this week at 71st after coming from behind for a 4-3 win over No. 66 Middle Tennessee State last week. Virginia Tech’s first eight victories, all over unranked teams, included four shutouts. The Hokies are 2-0 in BIG EAST play, having topped Pittsburgh (6-1) and West Virginia (7-0). Virginia Tech will take on Boston College at 1 p.m. (EST) on Saturday in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. A year ago, the Hokies were 17-11 and finished third in the BIG EAST Championships, losing to Miami in the semifinals and beating Boston College 4-1 in the third-place match. Virginia Tech is coached by Lisa Hart, who is in her third season and has compiled a 38-23 (.623) mark.
Notre Dame and Virginia Tech had not met until 2001, but the teams have squared off three times in the past two seasons, with the Irish registering shutout victories on each occasion. This will be the third consecutive season the Hokies have come to Notre Dame. The Irish, ranked in the top 20 on each occasion, registered 7-0 victories each of the last two years. The teams also met in the 2001 BIG EAST tournament, with Notre Dame gaining a 4-0 win.
Last season, the Irish used dominant singles play for a 7-0 win in February in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The doubles point came down to the No. 2 match, which was the last to finish. Nina Vaughan and Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) delivered an 8-6 win over Kristen Stubbs and Zdenka Videnova to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. In singles, Notre Dame won all six matches in straight sets, dropping no more than seven games in any contest.
IRISH vs. EAGLES: Boston College comes to Notre Dame this weekend with a perfect mark. The Eagles have won each of their first three matches, all at home, downing Dartmouth (7-0), Cornell (5-2) and BIG EAST foe Syracuse (6-1). B.C. will play its first match away from home on Saturday at 1 p.m. (EST) against Virginia Tech in the Eck Tennis Pavilion in a rematch of last year’s third-place match in the BIG EAST Championship. In 2002, Boston College was ranked 66th in the preseason and finished 8-12 and fourth in the BIG EAST tournament. The Eagles are coached by Nigel Bentley, who is in his third season as the B.C. women’s coach with a 23-19 (.548) record after serving as men’s tennis coach for four years at the school.
Notre Dame and Boston College have met seven times, all since 1991, with the Irish winning each decision. This will be the fifth regular-season meeting between the teams — all at Notre Dame — but the first since 1998. Notre Dame had registered shutouts in each of the four previous meetings before winning 4-1 last season. Boston College is one of just eight teams to have played the Irish seven or more times, but remain winless. A Notre Dame win would put B.C. in the company of Drake (0-9) and Kansas State (0-8) as the only teams to be winless against the Irish after having played eight or more matches.
In the ’02 BIG EAST semifinals, Notre Dame gained a 4-1 victory, but the Eagles became the first team other than Miami to score a point against Notre Dame in BIG EAST tournament play since the Irish joined the conference in 1996. The Irish won the doubles point with wins at Nos. 2 and 3. In singles, Notre Dame got straight-set wins at Nos. 1, 4, and 5 to clinch the match, but not before Morgan Landes finished a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Lindsey Green at No. 3 to prevent the shutout. The No. 6 match was in a third set when it was abandoned, while the No. 2 contest appeared to be headed to a decisive set.
IRISH HEAD COACH: Jay Louderback is in his 14th year at Notre Dame with a 239-117 (.671) record and his 24th year as a collegiate coach with a 445-295 (.601) mark. He ranks fifth among active NCAA Division I coaches in career victories and gained his 400th career win in collegiate women’s tennis earlier this spring vs. Wisconsin (45 of his victories came in three years coaching the Iowa State men’s team). Louderback’s Irish have finished in the national top 30 in each of the last 10 seasons, have won 10 conference titles and registered 20 or more victories five times in the last seven seasons. After taking over a program looking for its first NCAA tournament appearance, Louderback has helped Notre Dame to the NCAAs nine times in the last 10 years, including five appearances in the round of 16 and a 1996 quarterfinal finish. Louderback, a four-time midwest region coach of the year, has been honored as his conference’s top coach on eight occasions, including five times in seven years in the BIG EAST. In his time at Notre Dame, Louderback’s players have earned All-America honors 13 times, won three national ITA awards, and earned 16 invitations to the NCAA singles championship and 10 to the NCAA doubles tournament. His players have dominated the university awards during Louderback’s tenure, leading all sports in both Byron V. Kanaley awards (five) and Francis Patrick O’Connor awards (four). The Arkansas City, Kan., native, and 1976 graduate of Wichita State arrived at Notre Dame prior to the 1990 season after coaching for seven years at his alma mater and three years (men and women) at Iowa State.
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Idle Notre Dame dropped two spots to 21st among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in the Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings this week. The Irish had moved up two slots to 19th in the previous rankings despite going 0-2 during that week. Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 25 in each of the last 120 sets of rankings released by the ITA, dating back to fall, 1995. Junior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) is the only Irish player mentioned in the fall edition of the individual national rankings (released Jan. 13), coming in at 124th after being 86th in the preseason. The next set of individual listings will be released Feb. 26. In the midwest region singles rankings released at the end of the fall season, Salas was 12th in singles, while freshman Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) was 21st. In doubles, the team of senior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) and freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) was 15th.
IT TAKES TWO, BABY: Notre Dame’s doubles play has been improved this season. The Irish won the doubles point in three of their first four matches this spring, including against No. 5 North Carolina. The only team to take the doubles point from Notre Dame was Northwestern. Last year, the Irish were 16-12 in doubles.
BIG EAST DOMINANCE: Though Notre Dame does not play a traditional BIG EAST schedule during the regular season, the Irish have had great success against other league teams. Since joining the conference in 1996, Notre Dame has won four league titles and finished as the runner-up on three other occasions. Overall, the Irish hold a 29-3 all-time record against BIG EAST teams, with the only three losses coming to Miami in the conference championship match in 1998, 2000 and 2002. In all-time regular-season action, Notre Dame is 13-0 against BIG EAST foes.
No. 1 DUKE HEADING TO NOTRE DAME: After this weekend, Notre Dame will next welcome Duke to the Eck Tennis Pavilion on Friday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. (EST). The Blue Devils ascended to the national No. 1 ranking for the first time in school history this week after winning the title in the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships with victories over Kentucky, #5 North Carolina, #10 California, and #2 Florida. Stanford, who was previously No. 1 dropped a 4-3 decision to Cal in the tournament’s quarterfinals. Duke is 8-0 this season, also including wins over #12 Northwestern and #8 Vanderbilt. The first match for the Blue Devils following the National Indoors will be at Notre Dame.
ACE FOR THE CURE SET FOR MARCH 2: The second annual Ace for the Cure colon cancer benefit will take place Sunday, March 2 before the Irish battle #15 Texas in a Noon match. Inspired and conceived by senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.), whose family has been afflicted by the disease, this event is designed to increase awareness among students, faculty, staff, and the Michiana community as to the deadly threat of colon cancer. Health care specialists will be on hand to distribute information and answer questions regarding detection and screening, while the match will also serve as a fund raiser to benefit ongoing colon cancer research. Last year’s initial Ace for the Cure was a great success, and following it, the Irish went on to a thrilling 4-3 win over BIG EAST rival Miami with Cunha providing the clinching wins in both singles and doubles.
IRISH FACING TOUGH SLATE: The road to the 2003 NCAA Championships will be challenging for Notre Dame. Of the 21 dual-match opponents the Irish will face this season, 15 of them earned berths to last year’s NCAA tournament and 18 were in the top 60 of this year’s ITA preseason rankings, including nine in the top 16. The Irish will face eight squads that advanced to the NCAA round of 16 a year ago. Highlighting Notre Dame’s schedule are 10 matches with preseason top-25 foes – at No. 12 Northwestern (L, 0-7), vs. No. 5 North Carolina (L, 2-5), vs. No. 4 Duke (Feb. 21), at No. 11 Tennessee (Feb. 23), at No. 14 Kentucky (Feb. 24), vs. No. 15 Wake Forest (March 1), vs. No. 13 Texas (March 2), at No. 6 Arizona State (March 14), vs. No. 16 William & Mary (March 23), and at No. 24 Miami (April 12). All but Miami reached at least the NCAA round of 16 a year ago, while Wake Forest advanced to the quarterfinals and Tennessee fell in the semifinals.
THOMPSON TWINS SET TO JOIN IRISH: Jay Louderback recently announced the signing of two incoming freshmen for the 2003-04 school year. Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) have signed national letters of intent to enroll at Notre Dame next year and join the Irish tennis team in the fall. The sisters were ranked No. 1 in the USTA Girls’ 18-and-under national doubles rankings last year and both are among the top 16 high school seniors in the country in singles. The Thompsons, who helped Bishop Gorman High School to the Nevada state championship, have a number of notable juniors doubles titles in the 18s to their credit, including the 2001 Super National Winter Doubles Championship, the ’01 National Clay Court Championships and the ’02 National Grass Court Championship. Catrina Thompson is 39th in the USTA girls’ 18s singles rankings and is the 16th-highest-ranked prep senior in the United States. Christian Thompson is ranked 11th nationally in singles and is fifth among players who will enter college in the fall.
KEEPING UP WITH NOTRE DAME TENNIS: For the fastest results of Notre Dame tennis matches, call the Notre Dame sports hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose #8. The hotline provides schedule and results information for varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the game recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website at www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with the results of each Notre Dame tennis match. In addition, media members and fans may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Masters at Masters.email@example.com.